Category Archives: Improvement

Blinded by a Critical Eye

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) / Pixabay

I’ve been given the gift of seeing life through a critical eye. It’s allowed me to create balance with color in my artwork, improve writing by discovering hidden mistakes and places that need revising, and to analyze my students’ work to determine where my teaching had fallen short. Even decorating my home is easier with a critical eye, as it enables me to know just where to hang things on the wall without the need of a tape measure or level.  My favorite thing about seeing through a critical eye? I think it’s that my view of the world around me comes in bits and pieces, minute details that can be easily missed.  Recognizing those little nuances gives me a greater appreciation for the intricacies of nature, helps me perceive unspoken needs and emotions in those around me, and often it offers me a clear vision when problem solving.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

Recently, my eyes were opened to recognize how blind I really am!  You see, as positive as my critical eye may be, it also can plunge me into the dark, short-sighted practice of criticism. And while hearing that wasn’t easy and as much as I wanted to defend myself, I’m ashamed to say I know it’s true.  I’m not sure where it comes from, insecurity I suppose, but it’s way too easy for my critical eye to focus on and pick apart the most insignificant things in others: the way they dress, their manner of speech, what they do or don’t do, and unfortunately the list goes on.  In hindsight, I recognize, however unintentional it’s been, being blinded by my critical eye has caused me to hurt those I care most about. In diagnosing my critical eye blindness, I’ve bumped into another realization: the vision I have of myself is also blurred. As hard as I am on those around me, I’m even harder on myself.  I tend to set my sight on my imperfections, mistakes, and failures until those are all I see.  Maybe you can relate.

So what’s a blind critical eyed gal to do? I read some very wise words this week over at http://www.CindyKrall.com 

She wrote, “Self-talk can be empowering or defeating.  Many of us are careful about what we say with regards to others, but we can fall short when it comes to the way we treat ourselves.  This verse (“No longer will there be any curse.” Revelation 22:3) reminds me that we can “curse” ourselves, sometimes without meaning to.  Christ nailed those kind of curses to the cross as well.” 

I think Cindy’s words apply not only to what we say, but to what we see in ourselves and in others, as well.

No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket.  Instead, it is put on a lamp stand to give light to all who enter the room.  You eye is a lamp for your body.  A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul.  But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness.  Make sure that the light you think you have is not really darkness.  If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight is shining on you.” Luke 11:33-36 (NLT)

Christ! The One who nailed curses to the cross, caused the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, and is the same One who came so the Blind. Could. See. I can’t navigate this life with the limited sight I have on my own.  Fixing my eyes on God, trying to see things from His point of view, is the only way to cure my vision problem.

I’m not big on making resolutions, however…. not just for the new year but for life, I want to resolve to use my critical eye to see the intricacies of others and myself the way God sees us;  no longer looking for ways to tear down but instead, with loving eyes, to shine a light  that encourages and uplifts! It will take work, patience, and a lot of prayer (yours are appreciated); but hopefully, I’ll be seeing more clearly very soon!

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now, I See!
~John Newton~

 

 

 

 

 

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Big Buts

 

“Teach me your ways, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11 (ESV)

Do you have a big but? (Sometimes I crack myself up!) Well, I do! Today, while praying during my devotions, I earnestly told God that I desired to be radically used by Him.  The words however, were not yet off my tongue before I felt a tightening in my chest and breath caught in my throat. Yep, there it was.  I knew it and God definitely knew it because it’s been in my prayers before.  

My BIG BUT…….

Wanting to be used by God, to hear his calling and answer, IS my sincere desire BUT:  I want to do it without leaving my comfort zone, sacrificing too much, or suffering in the process.  In other words, I want to do God’s work BUT do it MY way!  

Do you remember the “Parable of the Talents”?  (Matthew 25:14-30)  Jesus told his listeners a story about a man who gave his servants some of his money to take care of in his absence.  Two of the servants used the money they’d been given to make more for their master.  The last servant was afraid to take a risk…he had a “big but” if you will; and so, he buried the coins only to return what he’d been given.  I am afraid I’m an awful lot like that servant; offering a poor return on God’s investment.

God entrusts us with talents, time, money, and other gifts.  What we do with them is up to us. Will we use them to serve God or will we, ME, make excuses or let fear keep us from doing what He asks of us?  

So, what’s a gal with a BIG BUT to do? I don’t have it all figured out yet but here’s where I need to start:

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God.  May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on firm footing.” Psalm 143:10 (NIV) (emphasis mine)

Did you catch that? We’re not supposed to do it on our own! (You’d think I’d learn by now). It’s God’s instruction and guidance we need to depend on to make the task before us  attainable. It’s also important to be willing to put one foot in front of the other and “walk the walk” in our everyday lives to prepare us for all God calls us to do. I’m certainly not there yet and it won’t happen all at once, but I believe with prayer, practice, perseverance, and taking baby steps as I follow after God, my BIG but will shrink until it disappears from my prayers all together. I look forward to the time when it’s finally “behind” me! (Get it? behind? I did it again!) How about you? Is your BIG BUT getting in the way of doing all God calls you to do? I pray that this may be the first step for you AND me on our “but-free” journey to doing God’s will God’s way!     

 

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Wise Wednesday 10/19/16

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“One of the gifts of being a Christian, is being content where you are.” I was in a conversation this morning when I heard these words.  They weren’t spoken about me, but they sure spoke TO me! Loud. And. Clear. And, I have no doubt I was meant to hear them.

Content: “satisfied with what one is or has”  May I be honest with you?  I don’t know the last time I’ve felt content!  In my mind, there always seems to be something lacking: in my circumstances, my relationships, and myself! It hadn’t occurred to me, until now that is, that trying so hard to be a good Christian has caused me to miss out on a gift of being a Christian!

 Striving is second nature to me…..striving to always do better and be better. That’s good, right? I’ve been telling myself it’s not only good, but it’s necessary! Now I’m wondering, is it? Constantly attempting to improve, worrying when I don’t, and the negative words that I repeat in my head DON’T feel like rewards at all. 

It took another conversation for me to see that I’ve been depending on…..wait for it…..ME! I don’t want to admit it, but all that striving is really my attempt at pleasing God through my efforts, my works!  Whoa!  As much as I’d like to deny it, and believe me I tried, this striving girl has been struggling so hard I’ve ignored the Giver and the gift!

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)

“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
2 Corinthians 12:8-9 (NIV)

What about you? Are you as ready as I am, to stop the striving? It isn’t going to be easy.  There’s a part of me that’s scared at the thought of not constantly monitoring my progress but there’s also a sense of relief that comes with the knowledge that in my weakness, God’s power is made perfect. So, I say it’s time! Let’s open the gift! First, untie the ribbons that bind us to our performance. Then, let’s unwrap ourselves from the belief that we have the strength to do anything on our own. And finally, let’s  open our hearts and know there’s true contentment found in the “presence” of God’s grace. 

P.S. Thank you to my mother-in-law for sharing her wise words and to my husband, whose patient guidance helps me in this journey of life.

Wise Wednesday 10/12/16

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“Oh, I wish I had long, straight hair like her instead of my wild, curly hair.” “How could I let myself get this heavy when they look so slim and fit?” “I can’t speak in front of them. They know much more about the Bible than I do.” Why would anyone want to read what I write when there are so many better bloggers than me?” “They wouldn’t be my friends if they knew how many more times I fail than they do.”

Comparison. To be honest, it’s been a way of life for me for as long as I can remember and I always end up feeling I come up short.  It’s easy, especially with social media, to find someone who appears prettier, thinner, smarter, wiser, or more talented and successful than I am. Ever been there? Jumping in and spending time in the comparison pool is just like treading water.  It gets you no where fast and is exhausting!  The longer we stay there the more shriveled our souls feel and our joy truly is swept away with the tide.

Try as I might to avoid immersing myself in all the ways I don’t measure up, I somehow seem to dip my toes in and before I know it I’m being pulled under. Why? It’s hard to stay afloat when I’m weighted down with me, me, me.

“Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:2 (NLT)

I’m not there yet, but I am beginning to realize that God never intended for us to compare ourselves to one another.  He created each of us, just the way we are, to do His perfect will. Stop for a minute. Just think about that…..The things that we may wish to change are the same things God gave us with a purpose.  Switching our focus from “me of this world” to “God has a plan for me in this world” offers us relief from drowning in comparison. We’re not supposed to be like anyone else! Let that sink in.

I had to take a break from this post and come back today because as I wrote these words on Wednesday I became disappointed with myself for not being able to tell you I have this comparison thing whipped.  I. Don’t.  Knowing comparison is not what God wants for me and doing it anyway makes me just plain frustrated with myself! Do you have similar struggles? I’m glad to say that since beginning this Wise Wednesday post, God has reminded me that our transformation doesn’t happen quickly.  It’s a lifetime process.   My prayer today is that we become more aware of those things, like comparison, that keep us from seeing who we really are and that we’re able to change the way we think so we can joyfully splash in the good and pleasing will of God!

Fixer Upper Envy

One of many projects needing to be tackled.

On the list to be fixed.

I love watching home improvement shows!  You know the kind. Where talented designers walk into a house that has been neglected and is run down. One that no one else sees potential in and with vision they create a plan to make it look absolutely perfect!  It’s common during these shows, for the contractor to uncover some hidden problems in the process and then like a hero, finds a way to fix everything so that it’s better than ever, almost as if they’d never existed.  I think I’m a big fan because I live in an old house that needs its own improvement show!  I literally drool as the beautiful remodeled homes on T.V. are revealed to their owners.  I’ve been known to shed a tear or two along with them as they realize the once deteriorating house has become their forever home.  I even daydream about a team coming to our small town to surprise me and fix all the problems my house has. New gutters and siding on the exterior.  Stylish paint and furniture in every room and oh, a beautifully updated kitchen with shiny, new, working appliances!  Yes, I confess, I have fixer upper envy!

I hate to admit it, but my envy extends beyond my house.  I could sure use some fixing up myself!  My exterior needs work and hidden on the inside are many imperfections that need improvement. “I want to be more fit. I wish my hair was straight. I’d hoped to have more wisdom by now.  Why can’t I fully trust?  Procrastinating has to stop!” The list goes on and on.  I’m learning the more focus I put on what’s neglected, tattered, dingy, faded, and frayed, the harder it is for me to reach my true potential.

My house most likely will never be featured on any home improvement show. Thankfully though, I have “The Designer of all Things” working on me!  It’s a slow process for now, but one day, it will be as if my problems never existed and I’ll step into my forever home with Him, the ultimate Fixer Upper!